Ranney Letter #15
Lyman writes Henry in the fall, after a trip down the Arkansas River to its mouth on the Mississippi just beyond Little Rock, Arkansas. Lyman has been ill, but tells Henry he is moving up to Tahlequah in the Cherokee Nation, to take over a store there for his employers. Tahlequah was the first town incorporated in the territory given to the Indians after their removal from Georgia on the “Trail of Tears” in the 1830s. The territory became the state of Oklahoma in 1907.
Lyman says the payments to Indians he described in a previous letter have begun, and he says the “appropriation” money comes to $800,000 more than the Indians regular annuity. This is apparently a payment associated with the 1851 Indian Appropriations Act, which allocated funds to create a system of reservations and move Indians onto them. This was a boon to the local economy, since as Lyman also described earlier, the Indians have nothing else to do with all this money but spend it in stores like Mr. Bishop’s. And it apparently came at a good time for the white community, since a three month drought had reduced the cotton and corn harvest by up to half.
Lyman also mentions a young man he met who claimed to be related to the Gardner family of Ashfield. He gives quite a bit of detail, although he never even got the man’s first name. The Gardners were not closely connected to the Ranneys as far as I can tell (no marriages, no correspondence in the archives, etc.), so perhaps Lyman’s interest in this person suggests his continuing homesickness and nostalgia for home.
Van Buren Sept 27th 1851
As I have just retnd from a trip down the river I thought I would let you know how I am getting along. I have been to the mouth of the Arkansas River after goods and arrived here on the 25th of Sept after an absence of over three weeks. I enjoyed very good health while gone except the last two or three of my trip when I was taken with the chills & fever. But I made out to reach home. I am now taking medicine and think I will be able to work in a few days.
I am a going up in the Cherokee Nation in a few days (to take charge of a store for Messrs. Baker & Bishop) at a place called “Tahlequah” about 25 miles from the American line. There is some whites and a good many Indians & Half Breeds that live there, but it is supposed to be a good place for selling goods. The payment of the Indian appropriation money has commenced to be paid out on the 22nd of this month which amounts to over 800,000$ beside the regular annuity which is nearly half that amt.
It has been remarkably dry here this season. Not over half or two thirds of a crop either in corn or cotton. There has not been any rain of consequence in about three months.
I saw while down the river a young man by the name of Gardiner. Says he is a relation of the Gardiners of Ashfield. He was formerly from Springfield Mass, did not learn his given name. Has been west two years or more, most the time in Cinti Ohio but came to Little Rock (capital of this state) last spring. Is engaged in merchandizing I think. Is a young man about 25 years old.
You will please direct all letters & papers, also please inform the offices from which I have papers sent (I have recd the Atlas & Tribune) to direct them to “Tahlequah” C. N. (Cherokee Nation) Arks. I must draw to a close as I am quite weak yet and not able to write any more at this time.
Give my Love to your family & our friends in your vicinity. Write on receiving this without fail and let me hear all.
L. A. Ranney